‘It ripples through the community’ - church leader on impact of suicide loss in Cromer

Cromer Parish Church head of mission, Simon Fenn, who led the suicide loss awareness walk on Saturda

Cromer Parish Church head of mission, Simon Fenn, who led the suicide loss awareness walk on Saturday. Photo: Cromer Parish Church - Credit: Cromer Parish Church

The leader of a Cromer church has highlighted the impact of suicide loss on families and the community, after several young men took their own lives in north Norfolk in recent months.

A shot of Cromer seafront taken by Simon Fenn during the International Survival of Suicide Loss Day

A shot of Cromer seafront taken by Simon Fenn during the International Survival of Suicide Loss Day walk in the town. Photo: SIMON FENN - Credit: Archant

Simon Fenn, head of mission at Cromer Parish Church, led a group of bereaved families and those affected by suicide on a walk to mark International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

The event was held on Saturday, November 17, and saw a group of 20, including representatives from the Samaritans, Cromer Church, and the Norfolk Wellbeing Service gather along the seafront.

Mr Fenn, 48, said: 'I just wanted to mark the importance of the day and get people together. It's important to share our stories - it was an exercise in listening.

'It's an annual day, so we'll try and hold it again in 2019. It's about bringing hope to the community.'

Mr Fenn, a licenced lay minister and former youth worker from East London, has been head of mission in Cromer since 2016.

He said: 'There's been an undercurrent since I've been here that mental health in north Norfolk has been an issue.

'There seems to be a sea change in Cromer to address this and I want to be a part of that conversation in a positive way.

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'I'm keen to make the church mental health friendly, whatever that looks like.

'The church has its place within the community.

'That's part of my mission to raise the profile of good mental health - men tend to talk shoulder to shoulder, not face to face.'

Mr Fenn, who is also a Wellbeing Service community champion, said his work in mental health was inspired in part by the experience of losing his father to suicide 13 years ago.

He said: 'I lost my dad to suicide in 2005. He didn't get to see the birth of my son. He didn't get to see me get married.

'Life isn't the same or better, but it's different.'

But he added: 'I've got a four-year-old boy and if that was my son I'd have been ripped to pieces. I can't imagine the pain.

'I can't understand how parents must feel but I can imagine.'

He said: '[Saturday] was a poignant and moving get together.

'We walked and talked along the seafront, and watched the setting sun from Cromer Pier before going to the Grey Seal for coffee.

'[These deaths] are like pebbles and the impact ripples through the lives of those involved and the local community.'

• Wellbeing Norfolk and Waveney (and Wellbeing Suffolk) can be accessed via 0300 1231503 or www.wellbeingnands.co.uk and the free Samaritans helpline can be accessed by calling 116 123 from anywhere in the UK.

What other support is out there?

Cromer Church runs regular events to raise the profile of men's mental health and provide space to talk:

• Who Let the Dads Out - a monthly parenting meeting. For more information, visit: www.cromer-church.org.uk/whats-on/regular-events/who-let-the-dads-out

• Men's Breakfast - a two-monthly breakfast meet up. Visit: www.cromer-church.org.uk/whats-on/regular-events/mens-breakfast

• Men's Social Events - including film/pizza nights and fish and chips on the pier. Visit: www.cromer-church.org.uk/whats-on/regular-events/mens-social-events

• Other Norfolk-wide and national projects offer free suicide prevention training and bereavement support:

• Zero Suicide Alliance - 20 minutes of free online training. Visit: www.zerosuicide alliance.com/

• The Anchor Project - Norwich and Central Norfolk Mind's bereavement support service. Visit: www.norwichmind.org.uk/get-support/groups/the-anchor-project